Throwback Thursday 4.18.13 Khadian Kelly (Track & Field) 2002-05

April 18, 2013

041813aae_550_78708.jpegFor Khadian Kelly, the feeling of returning to the University of Kansas to pursue her professional career was pretty surreal. In fact, when she walked into the Wagnon Student-Athlete Center on her first day as Director of Compliance for Kansas Athletics, she was greeted by a mural painting that featured two of her best friends—former track and field athletes Charisse Bacchus and Tiffany Cherry.

Kelly attended KU and was part of the track and field squad from 2002-05, when she focused on horizontal jumps under coach Milan Donley before transferring to UMKC to pursue a nursing degree. At KU she achieved Athletics Director’s Honor Roll status; at UMKC she earned all-conference athletic and academic honors as a track and field student-athlete.

After earning her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at UMKC, Kelly (who was born in Jamaica) would go on to work in compliance at Ohio State and the University of Miami (Fla.) before returning to Lawrence in early 2013 to accept her current position.

We caught up with her earlier this week to reflect on her career as a student-athlete, her unique heritage and her career path that led her back to the University of Kansas.

Talk about your cultural experiences having been born in Jamaica?
“I moved to (the U.S.) in 1990 when I was six years old. From a cultural standpoint, being from Jamaica shapes who I am. I can tell stories about when I first came here and I had my accent. My family in Miami still has a heavy accent. My mom has 11 brothers and sisters, so I have a pretty big family. They were raised there for a vast majority of their lives. When I was living in Miami, I found certain things slipping out of my mouth where I was like, ‘Wait a second. Did I really just say that?’ Even as a six-year-old, I went through a culture shock. There were things I didn’t have access to when I was in Jamaica. It’s cool having that background and my friend (Charisse Bacchus) is from Trinidad & Tobago, so being able to be relate to her was great.”

My friends call me a ‘Jamerican,’ but when I tell people I’m from Jamaica, they say, ‘No you’re not,’ so I’m more Americanized than I am Jamaican.”
How did you get involved in track?
“I was a student-athlete at Shawnee Mission West High School. I was more basketball focused than I was focused on track and field. One of my teachers happened to be one of the jumps coaches. He reached out to me and asked if I had ever jumped. He essentially recruited me to come out for the track team. I ended up doing track all four years of high school and lettered all four years. I did primarily long and triple jump, but I also did the 100-meter relay and the 400-meter and 200-meter races as well. I did anything that my coaches could put me in. However, I mainly focused on long jump and triple jump.”

What brought you to KU as a student-athlete?
“I was contacted by Coach (Milan) Donley, the jumps coach at the time, and I was able to come (to Lawrence) and be a student-athlete. I got here in 2002 and I was competing with the Jayhawks until the spring of 2005 when I transferred to UMKC. I was there from 2005-07 and I was able to finish up my last two years of eligibility there.”

What are some of your fondest memories of being an athlete at KU?
“During my sophomore year, when our fall training was starting up, there were rumors about how the jumpers were going to have a really tough workout. We were just sitting there saying, ‘Whatever. All of Coach Donley’s workouts are tough.’ As the day went on, everyone was saying we were going to have to do five 600-meter (sprints), and we were worried and saying, ‘What? Five 600’s? We’re not cross country runners.’ We were sitting there panicking and we were thinking that the rumors were hopefully just a joke. When we got to practice, we did our warm-up and then we went outside and we saw the cones laid out. So we got on the line and sure enough, we were doing five 600’s. The entire time, my teammates and I couldn’t believe we were doing those. We ended up getting through the workout, but it was probably the toughest workout that I had ever done. I’d say the workout series he had us do that fall were the workouts that made me mentally tough, not only from a student-athlete standpoint, but for my life in general.”

How about your memories as a student?
“Probably the most memorable thing from a student standpoint was how structured Coach Donley was in regards to not only improving our athletic ability, but our academics as well. He was very adamant about making sure we were in study hall. As much as we dreaded going to study hall, it turned out to be really great because it helped me learn how to manage my time and how to structure and prioritize which classes I needed to focus on.”

041813aae_550_7062395.jpegWhat prompted your transfer to UMKC?
“I wanted to be a nurse. I was set on being a nurse. A lot of my family is in the medical field. I think there was a lot of push on my parents from other family members to motivate me to go into the medical field. I thought it was what I really wanted to do. I ended up getting into the nursing program at UMKC and that’s essentially what prompted (the move). But, one of my teammates actually got sick on a plane ride. She had vertigo, so she called me because nobody else was available. I was freaking out and panicking. Then I said, ‘Maybe this is my sign that I shouldn’t go into nursing.’ I later decided that nursing wasn’t for me and I ended up making a big decision and switched my major to psychology.”

How did you end up working in compliance?
“I essentially started out in academic advising and did that for a year. Then, my boss got moved over to compliance, so I ended up going into compliance as well. Once I finished up my degree, I had an opportunity to go to Ohio State and do compliance there for about two years.”

How did you end up back at KU for your career and what was it like to return?
“I worked at Ohio State from May 2010 to June 2012, and then I went to the University of Miami (Fla.) for roughly nine months. David Reed was my boss at Miami, and when he accepted the position here at Kansas he brought me along with him. It was one of those things where I was in the right place and I had the right connections. My first day (at KU) was a little unreal. In all honesty, it doesn’t really feel like I’m even here. I think back to my experiences as a student-athlete here and it’s great that Coach (Stanley) Redwine, Coach Donley and Coach (Elisha) Brewer are still here. The fact that I am able to see them now in a different capacity – where I’m working in the department with them – is a lot to take in, but I’m really excited. I was really excited to come here.”

When I walked in the door, I noticed the mural on the wall (of the Wagnon Student Center) that showed Charisse Bacchus and Tiffany Cherry, who are two of my best friends. I never understood what it was like to have a special connection with (the place) where someone works until now.”

What do you see for yourself in the future?
“Right now, I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can. I want to eventually be in a situation or a position that my mentors are in, and serve in leadership roles. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and learn as much knowledge as I can and learn from the people who have been supporting me.”